by Hoyt Gong (Pasadena Youth Corps) and Jessica Homami (Santa Monica Youth Corps)
On April 4, nearly 60 Red Cross youth members traveled to the Greater Long Beach Red Cross Chapter for the 7th annual Global Youth Service Day, an event in which youth volunteers from around the L.A. Region work in teams to learn about and promote the five lines of service offered by the Red Cross: Disaster, Blood, Service to the Armed Forces, Health and Safety, and International Services.
When we arrived at the Long Beach Chapter, we started with an ice breaker exercise and introductions. Red Cross LA Region CEO Jarrett Barrios welcomed and addressed us. His words about the importance of youth volunteers were very inspiring, and we felt proud to be Red Cross volunteers attending such an important service day.
Clubs in the region then shared the events they hosted throughout the year. Afterwards, representatives from the LA County Fire Department spoke about their experiences as firefighters and the duties they perform. They also brought along a vehicle that they called the “Shakey Quakey.” Although not the most intimidating name, don’t be fooled because it was a highly-specialized earthquake simulator truck. Groups of us went into the truck and felt what the shaking is like in a 3.1 magnitude earthquake! We then had a Q & A session with the firefighters which led right into Red Cross’ next campaign in which youth will be involved – #ThisIsHowIRoll – where we show people how to protect themselves in a fire. In the afternoon, we split up into groups with various projects to learn about and promote each line of service.
I was a part of the Disaster Services group. First, we participated in a Jeopardy game to gain some general fire safety knowledge. Using the new facts we learned, we canvassed a local neighborhood to promote fire preparedness. For many of us, it was our first time going door-to-door and giving out fire safety tips. Yet as we progressed through the neighborhood, we all started to feel more comfortable and enjoy ourselves. My partner, Eric Cho, and I had very successful results in communicating with the local residents; we started off our canvassing by having fire safety conversations with twelve residents in a row! At the end of the day when we presented our canvassing project during the debrief discussion, our group total of conversations held was 62 and the door hangers we placed collectively summed up to reach a whopping 176 people.
Jessica Homami’s Experience:
This year, I worked with the Service to Armed Forces project on Global Youth Service Day. If you had asked me before this experience what the Red Cross does for the Armed Forces, I most likely could not have been able to tell you. After hearing information about how the Red Cross enables soldiers to return home to loved ones in an emergency situation and even gives hope to disabled vets after their return, it made me proud to walk through the Long Beach VA hospital as a clearly labeled Red Cross youth volunteer. As we passed out thank-you cards to the vets we met and read them to those who were unable to do so on their own, I heard more stories of bravery and valor to associate with the faces of these heroes. In my case, my pride in the Red Cross began to merge with humility. I felt honored to be standing mere inches away from people who devoted their lives to making sure that countless others could live in freedom and in peace.
One particular guest at the hospital stood out to me. His name was George and after telling a tale of his own, he asked the rest of my group and me what we had done recently to help our fellow man. The odd thing was, in the given moment, none of us were able to answer him. No one, including myself, could think of any selfless act that they had done for the benefit of others. After a few minutes of thinking, someone in the group said that we are Red Cross volunteers and the reason we were even at the hospital was to benefit others. This answer seemed to satisfy George, along with the other volunteers who were racking their brains for an answer. And for me, realizing that just in that day I had made a difference for my fellow man, I gained a new sense of accomplishment. I now had a selfless act under my belt, and I am excited to do more to help others.
Hoyt and Jessica:
Global Youth Service Day was a fun and interactive way to give back to those in need. We had such an amazing experience meeting people in the community, while also making new friends with other Red Cross youth volunteers. We highly anticipate next year’s event; the day went by too quickly, and we hope to see everyone again next year.